This was one of the silliest writing-related (well, sort of) things I ran across last year: the Book Millionaire “reality show.” It’s the brainchild not of a publishing industry insider–or even a publishing industry outsider–but of Lori Prokop, purveyor of a variety of get-rich-quick tapes, seminars, and books, and owner of her very own vanity press, Best Seller Publishing, Inc. (which currently has no working website, but here’s what it looked like in 2003).
And guess what–these lucky would-be authors don’t need to squeeze out a single line of prose! According to the show’s FAQ: “We are looking for a person who desires to be America’s next Book Millionaire and best selling author. This means the book may or may not be written yet nor would it need to be written before filming of the show.”
So this is a book contest in which an actual book is irrelevant. For any potential contestants who might be feeling a little nervous about that, not to worry–if you don’t have your own book, you can use someone else’s! “You will not need to have your own book finished for the filming,” the FAQ helpfully explains. “Rather, we will use prominent company products and currently published books for the tasks.” Clearly, this is a competition for all the people who always kinda thought they might write the Great American Novel but never quite found the time, or the people who have a fab idea for a book if someone else would just take care of writing it for them, or the people who want to be authors but don’t want to take the time to turn themselves into writers.
What can contestants expect? Again according to the FAQ,
You and other chosen Candidate Authors will come to a filming location near Minneapolis, Minnesota. Eight people with dreams of seeing their book ideas become published and being the next author launched to best selling and celebrity status will meet our Publishing Committee. You and others will complete a series of tasks which pertain to book promotion and living the lifestyle of a best selling author.
Doesn’t exactly sound like riveting television, does it? (Who comprises the Publishing Committee? Your guess is as good as mine. There’s no info on the website.)
The lucky winner will realize “the ultimate dream — to enjoy the lifestyle of being a successfully published author. And they will receive additional prizes to help achieve the goal of Best Selling and Celebrity Status and becoming the America’s next Book Millionaire.” As always, though, it pays to read the fine print–in this case, the participation agreement that Book Millionaire hopefuls are required to sign:
8. PRIZES. Game Winner receives: A Publishing Contract. The winner gets to have their book manuscript published and available on Amazon.com and available to bookstores in the United States. Prizes are not transferable and no substitution of prizes is permitted except that Best Seller Publications reserves the right to substitute a prize of equivalent value or greater if a prize is unavailable.
So there’s actually only one prize, and the publisher involved is a mystery–though I’m guessing that it’s Lori Prokop’s own websiteless vanity publisher, Best Seller Publishing. If so, not much of a prize. (Note the key phrase “available to bookstores”: that’s a euphemism for “special order only.”)
Where will we be seeing Book Millionaire, once the finalists are chosen? Not on network TV. Not on cable TV. Not on local access TV. Not even at 2:00am on paid infomercial TV. No–Book Millionaire will be broadcast FREE online! The website tries to put a good face on this:
After listening to all the emails asking how people could make sure they could see the show (regardless of where they lived) and talking to cable channels, who were both very interested in the show and very fun to talk with, and talking to sponsors who wanted the highest amount of distribution possible, we have all agreed that broadcasting Book Millionaire online for FREE is a great answer.
This means Book Millionaire shows will be available to the billion people worldwide (by bCentral research estimates) who have a computer and internet connection.
That’s quite a dramatic change from this hopeful update in November 2005, where Prokop was claiming to be “deeply encouraged” by the responses of networks and syndicators, and forecasting a 2006 airing date (itself a step back from the original claim of a Fall 2005 airing). It’s pretty easy to guess that, in fact, no actual TV channels were interested in this absurd concept.
If, like me when I first ran across the contest, you thought that no one would be so gullible as to fall for this flimflam (which actually made it into the Museum of Hoaxes), you’d be wrong. Videos made by aspiring book millionaires have begun to appear on the contest website. You can vote for your favorites; in fact, since there don’t appear to be any provisions in place to guard against vote-rigging, you can vote for them often.
Would-be book millionaires, I, a book non-book millionaire, wish you all the best of luck. I also hope you read the disclaimer in your participation agreement–just in case this celebrity author thing doesn’t wind up being all it’s cracked up to be:
20. PARTICIPATION…You understand if chosen as a Candidate Author, your participation in Program will not be all that you may want or need to do to achieve the ultimate publishing success. You understand and agree the Book MillionaireTM Reality TV Show and its producers, owners, officers, directors, employees, judges, agents, representatives, and affiliates do not warrant any particular level of success from your participation in the Program. You expressly acknowledge that no promises have been made to you, either express or implied, verbal or written, regarding any income you might earn or success you might achieve due to your participation in the Process or Program or any expenses you might earn back, including your travel or other expenses in conjunction with the Application or Participation in Process or Program.
UPDATE 4/22/07: It’s now a year later. The casting call is complete; all videos and winners have been posted on the Book Millionaire website, and the show has moved on to “the next phase”, whatever that is.
Also, “to show our support and appreciation for you and to help you create what you want in your life”, Lori Prokop has come up with a series of FREE (YES…TOTALLY FREE!) Book Millionaire Virtual Seminars, taught by (unnamed) “hand-picked experts” and covering such important subjects as how to overcome “creativity block” and how to “achieve best selling status.”
UPDATE 7/13/08: Oh dear. Trouble in Book Millionaire land.
Book Millionaire continues to move forward, not at the pace we originally intended, but with the same excitement, focus and passion for helping others.
Personally, I needed some time to regroup and understand actions of others, of which I felt deep hurt and sadness. This is, in part, what put the show on hold. I appreciate your patience through this process.
I have observed some disparaging comments about the Book Millionaire show and me.
It has come to our attention — through communications from others — this may be in connection with a group of bloggers who are allegedly blogging false, inaccurate information against about 100+ companies and projects in the publishing industry.
Oh noes! Could that be me, Ann, Rich, and Michael?
At first I was very angry and wanted to punish the people for what I saw as attacks.
But something deep inside of me looked around at our world and decided we didn’t need anymore thought forms of anger, hate or violence. Our world is at a critical point, we are either going to make it has a human race…or not.
It goes on from there, with some conspiracy theorizing about the mean bloggers being paid to spew their hate in order to smear competitors. Whatever.
Of the Book Millionaire reality show, there is still no sign of life.